Evangelical scholar expelled over evolution

Bruce WaltkeBruce Waltke

A noted evangelical Old Testament scholar resigned from his faculty position at a seminary in the wake of a controversy over his public acceptance of evolution. On March 24, 2010, a video featuring Bruce Waltke, Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, was posted on the website of the BioLogos Foundation. (Founded by Francis Collins, the BioLogos Foundation "explores, promotes, and celebrates the integration of science and Christian faith.") Entitled "Why Must the Church Come to Accept Evolution?" the video discussed "the danger that the Church will face if it does not engage with the world around it, in particular by acknowledging the overwhelming amount of data in support of biological evolution, which many evangelicals still reject."

On March 29, 2010, however, Waltke told BioLogos that the administration of Reformed Theological Seminary asked him to request that the video be removed. According to a blog post at BioLogos (April 2, 2010), "Dr. Waltke himself indicated that he still agreed with the content of the video. Indeed, Dr. Waltke has written previously on his support for theistic evolution ... However, given the brevity of the video, Dr. Waltke is concerned that his views might not be correctly understood. ... But despite repeated attempts to find an alternative solution, it has become clear that Dr. Waltke feels that the only remedy to his predicament is to remove the video" (emphasis in original). BioLogos complied with Waltke's request, while lamenting the necessity.

But that was apparently not enough for the seminary. Inside Higher Education (April 9, 2010) reported, "Michael Milton, president of the seminary's Charlotte campus and interim president of its Orlando campus, where Waltke taught, confirmed that the scholar had lost his job over the video." (Technically, Waltke offered his resignation, which officials at the seminary decided to accept.) Milton explained that Reformed Theological Seminary's faculty members are allowed to have different views on creation, but "Darwinian views, and any suggestion that humans didn't arrive on earth directly from being created by God (as opposed to having evolved from other forms of life), are not allowed, he said, and faculty members know this."

Waltke's views were already on record. In a post on BioLogos's blog (April 8, 2010), BioLogos's president Darrel Falk quoted Waltke's endorsement of theistic evolution from his book An Old Testament Theology (Zondervan, 2007), and commented, "Bruce made some equally strong statements with the BioLogos camera running and gave us the written permission to post the now-controversial video. What Bruce said on the video was simply an elaboration of things he had written already." Falk added, "Decades from now, when the Evangelical Church has come to terms with the reality of evolution, we hope she will look back at those who were the pioneers on its journey toward a fuller understanding of the manner by which God has created."

In a widely circulated letter to his colleagues at the Orlando campus of Reformed Theological Seminary, Waltke later commented, "I knew the issue of Genesis 1-3 and evolution was emotionally charged, but not this charged." The real issue, he explained, was that the video posted at BioLogos identified him as a professor at the seminary: "I was speaking as an individual, not as a representative of RTS. It may well be that I am the only one on the faculty holding the view of creation by the process of evolution as understood by mainline science, apart from its normal atheistic philosophy. As it stands, I dragged the whole community in the misunderstandings." Expressing regret for the turmoil, he added, "I find no fault with the RTS administration; in fact, I think they did the right thing."

Updated on April 14, 2010, by the addition of the fifth paragraph.